The Working Families top employers benchmark published this week found that the integration of family-friendly working practices has gained momentum, with chief executive Sarah Jackson saying “we might have reached a tipping point”.
However, line manager attitude was identified by 30% of organisations as a barrier to flexible working, up from 16% in 2012. The charity said this was significant as in many organisations lines managers are “the gatekeepers of flexible working arrangements”.
Approval for short term flexible working is left to the manager’s discretion in 54% of organisations. While this can have positive implications, Working Families policy and research officer Jonathan Swan told delegates at the charity’s conference on flexible working that employers should be aware of the downsides of this approach. “Leaving it to line managers does risk patchy implementation and the possibility of unfairness,” he said.
In addition, 30% of employers identified the lack of line manager training as a barrier – which Working Families said is linked to attitude. “Where managers feel they lack the skills and support to manage flexible working arrangements properly, then they will default to a non-flexible mindset. Where managers are also under pressure to deliver, this will be exacerbated.”
Director of consultancy and training Liz Morris said line managers need support to change their behaviour and the culture in their workplaces. She said they need to “trust themselves to let go of control, trust their team and trust themselves to cope with whatever happens next”.
The benchmark’s findings come as Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development research shows 36% of line managers have not received any training for their role, and that time for effective line management is too often sacrificed for more immediate task oriented priorities.
Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research associate at CIPD, said: “We hear organisations lament the lack and quality of leaders, but we aren’t seeing evidence of their commitment to drive good leadership and management practices.
“Businesses address issues such as poor customer service or faulty machinery straight away, whereas bad management across organisations is tolerated to a shocking degree. In the CIPD survey, 28% of organisations failed to act upon poor feedback on line managers; and nearly half (48%) confessed that individuals were promoted into managerial roles based on their performance record rather than people management or leadership skills.”
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